Seventy-six million strong, the Gen Y or Millennial Generation is challenging the workplace more powerfully than any generation has in the past. Some progressive business coaches, consultants and corporate leaders are partnering with Gen Y to create the most powerful, productive and creative workforce today.
The Millennial generation, born between 1982 and 2000, have entered the workforce in droves and are challenging assumptions about everything we do--from how we use technology to how work gets done. They're causing a revolution in the workplace, and it's time for managers to learn how to tap the power of this generation that will change the face of business over the next decade.
Their Baby Boomer parents are more involved in their adult kids' lives than ever before--even at work. This poses challenges; accustomed to lots of praise and little failure, Gen Yers often see themselves as worthy of special treatment when they enter the job market. This causes a significant source of friction for other generations. It's human nature for Traditionalists (those born before 1946), Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), and Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1981) to expect that the way they did things was the best way. Sadly, times change. The old ways get replaced, and we have to move on.
When Gen Yers don't find what they hoped for, such as the anticipation of rapid-fire career advancement or a collaborative environment in the workplace, they jump ship.
Collaboration & Generational Conflict
Traditionalists established their reputations as contributors, serving the greater good of the institution and doing whatever needed to be done. Boomers have been the competitors, pushing themselves to stand out from the crowd of 80 million and driving organizations to become bigger and better. Gen Xers are the controllers. Believing they could rely solely on themselves, they have drawn on their individual talents and entrepreneurial skills to invent and achieve.
Millennials will be the great collaborators. This is a generation weaned on cooperation at home and teamwork in school that did most everything in groups. They see their parents and peers as colleagues, not rivals. Being the ultimate team players, they push for increased collaboration in decision-making. This collaborator drive allows organizations to use Gen Yers' highly developed cooperation skills, particularly when it comes to the transfer of knowledge from older to younger employees.
If you want to make the Millennial work experience more fun, create teams for them. They will bond by blowing off steam together and providing support for one another when the going gets tough. By putting their creative minds together, they can push one another to come up with ingenious solutions. And with their superior team skills, they are likely to be highly efficient.
It should be mentioned that the teaming of Gen Yers can save the boss time. If Millennials are bouncing their ideas off one another, they won't be quite as quick to bounce into the boomer manager's office every time they want to share a new thought.
Creating a Coachable Workplace
Organizations must recognize that Millennials expect coaching and step up to offer it--and when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best and brightest, companies can build strong bonds by reaching out to the boomer parents of their young employees.
As Gen Yers integrate into companies, they are going to expect ongoing coaching and mentoring:
Coach on explicit and implicit know-how: Explicit means specific procedures, such as how to complete a tax filing or install an air-conditioning unit. Implicit means the intangible stuff, like how to sell an idea or make the boss look good. Both are important, but we tend to be more prepared to teach new employees about the explicit things and assume they'll pick up on the other stuff through osmosis. Don't make that assumption.
Be a coach, not a nag: Millennials have been coached all their lives, so this won't be new to them. But they expect to be treated like a darling, not a doofus. Their parents, teachers, and coaches have addressed them like valued team members. They'll anticipate the same treatment from you.
If you're stuck, call HR: In the battle to manage mismatched expectations you can't always be expected to know what to do. One Baby Boomer manager of a financial office blushed while admitting he felt paralyzed trying to talk about their dress code with Millennial females. As a Boomer male, the branch manager was in way over his head trying to address the issue, but he hadn't called HR for help. If he had, a female Millennial HR rep who called all the employees in for a short meeting would review dress code and firmly clarify that no part of the uncovered female bosom should be visible because it made customers uncomfortable (or overly happy in some cases).
In today's workplace, we have four generations attempting to work well together. Helping managers better understand how each of their generational associates make meaning is of great importance to the leadership of organizations--since all of the work is done through relationships. Effective coaching can help to bridge the gaps and oil the skids of communication between generations. Effective leadership can happen on the dance floor of communication when engaging in respectful conversations.